Emmanuel Sanders was one of the veteran cap casualties that came en masse today as the NFL announced the salary cap would be set at $182.5 million for the 2021 season, a substantial drop-off from the $198 million number it was in 2020. The Saints have the worst cap situation in the league hands-down and Sanders felt like an inevitable cut. That became official today.
But Sanders still has something left to give. The 33-year-old caught 61 passes for 726 yards and five touchdowns last season, working the middle of the field and the boundaries efficiently. He's not a game-breaker anymore, but he would be a much-welcomed addition for most of the WR-needy teams around the league and still can be a solid No. 3 receiver for a good team as he was for New Orleans last season. Here are four teams that will likely be interested in procuring his services.
New England Patriots
The Patriots will be linked to every free agent wideout this offseason, as they damn well should. The Pats' receiving corps was among the absolute worst in the league last year and it is not poised to get any better as N'Keal Harry continues to disappoint and Julian Edelman is a year older with a lot of miles on his wheels. Sanders presumably wants to win in the latter stages of his career (as evidenced by his choice to sign with the Saints for only $8 million a year last April) so it might be a tough sell for Bill Belichick. But the Patriots need him and they have the cap space to offer him a bigger deal than most of the other likely contenders for his signature. Belichick also likes Sanders as a player, having offered him a multi-year contract in 2013 when Sanders hit restricted free agency for the first time. A connection long in the making.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers need just one more reliable receiver to pair with Davante Adams and the various young guns Green Bay has trusted Aaron Rodgers to elevate over the last two years. Sanders would be a good choice in that regard. Green Bay is notoriously reticent to spend big money in free agency, but Sanders won't demand a huge salary and might even be willing to sign for cheaper for the privilege of going from catching balls from Drew Brees to snagging them from Rodgers. All the Rodgers hubbub has dissipated at this point, but the Packers know their championship window is wide-open right now after making it to within one game of the Super Bowl in 2020. Sanders would be a productive addition who would likely come up huge in important spots as a steady vet with a championship pedigree.
Signing Sanders would not solve the offensive line issues that have Russell Wilson all worked up, but it would certainly help matters. Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are an excellent one-two punch, but neither can work the middle of the field as well as Sanders at this point. Lockett is a pure deep threat and Metcalf's best work comes on short and deep passes. Sanders could step in comfortably as a No. 3 wideout for a team without a reliable one at this juncture and give the offense the extra boost it needs to compete in the NFC West. Seattle doesn't have a ton of money to work with, but $17 million will be more than enough to get the job done while addressing other holes like tight end and offensive line.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Do the Bucs need another wide receiver? Certainly not, and especially not after investing franchise-tag money in Chris Godwin. But could they use Sanders if he agreed to come on a one-year deal only worth a few million? Absolutely. Should Tampa Bay decide to let Antonio Brown move on, Sanders could come in as his replacement, a fourth receiver and a great depth move, which the Bucs know is valuable after losing Mike Evans and Godwin to injury at times in 2020. The amount of veterans hitting the market could also result in a ring-chasing year unlike anything we've seen in league history. If Sanders' only priority is securing another championship and not the bag, there is no better place to go than the team that employs one Tom Brady.